Two sandwiches short of a picnic

It’s a Sunday afternoon, I’ve got the house to myself and I’m twiddling my thumbs. What would you do? I got my sewing machine down from the shelf and decided I wanted to make me some clothes as I’ll be going on holiday in a week and a girl can’t have too many skirts! I needed something that would a) stretch my [limited] skills a little b) be finishable (so not a word) in a day and c) look fabulous when finished. Slight problem – no patterns in the house.

Never fear, Tilly and the Buttons was there to save me from my Sunday tedium. Tilly was a contestant on the Great British Sewing Bee earlier this year. Although she didn’t win, her blog is gaining popularity, probably because she’s got some lovely, self-designed patterns and an engaging, friendly writing style that doesn’t patronise beginners. I’ve been meaning to try one of her projects, the Picnic Blanket skirt, for a while now – and guess what? It doesn’t require a pattern!

The Picnic Blanket skirt is constructed from three rectangles, held together with a further rectangular waistband. The skirt is gathered, sits at the natural waist and fastens with a row of buttons down the centre front.

Tilly’s clear instructions take you from measuring and cutting right through to finishing. You only need to know your hip and waist measurements, plus how long you want the skirt to be and she shows you how to calculate in order to get the perfect fit.

I had a lot of bright blue gingham in my stash that needed using up and this was the perfect project. It proved to be a real help when cutting my fabric – the grid of the gingham gave me something to focus on when measuring and made cutting a hell of a lot quicker.

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So off I went on my merry way. The first few bits were easy – making the plackets for the buttons was simple – just a few straight lines of stitching. I even did French seams to construct the skirt itself. How I love French seams. So neat, so tidy, so pretty!

Just to bring me back down to earth with a bump, gathering the skirt proved to be a bugger. Tilly recommended doing the gathering in four sections to place less strain on the gathering stitches and reducing the chance of the thread breaking. I tried this, but my threads snapped on the first go. I split it into eight sections instead. This proved to be long and tedious, and I spent a lot of time untangling the long end threads.

Once I’d done that I tried to attach the skirt to the waistband. If I could learn to follow a seam allowance and check that none of the fabric is caught I’m sure I could have had this done in a matter of minutes. No. I lost the ability to sew in a straight line and got a substantial amount of fabric caught so I accidentally sewed an weird gather in the front panel. Out came the seam ripper and I tried again. The thread ran out. Argh. Then I had to remove all the basting and gather stitches – yet more tedium. It must have taken me at least an hour to get rid of them all.

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Once that was done I turned the hem and stitched it in place. After all that palaver the skirt wasn’t looking too bad, but I decided to call it a night – my tummy was rumbling and I wanted to go to bed. Just got the buttonholes to do now – a challenge in themselves methinks…

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